Do Dogs Know Their Gender?

This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Dogs do not know their gender. In fact, dogs don’t even know what gender means.

Find out why dogs don’t know their gender despite their distinct male and female behaviors. 

You’ll also discover if dogs know their owners’ gender and whether they have preferences or not.

do dogs know gender

Do Dogs Know Their Gender?

Dogs do not know their gender. They can tell if someone is male or female, but only in a biological sense. They can observe this information through their senses, especially their sense of smell. 

Dogs Know Their Sex

The correct term we should be using is “sex,” which refers to the biological differences between males and females assigned at birth. 

Dogs know their sex because they can smell themselves and other dogs through anal glands. It’s an instinct they were born with.

The term “gender” is a social construct, meaning humans create it through their cultural views or practices. 

For instance, when we talk about conventional practices of men hunting or going to work and women taking care of their offspring, we are referring to “gender” instead of “sex.” 

This is what we’re trying to find out with dogs. Do they know their gender, as in do they have distinctions for their roles, behaviors, and expressions based on being male or female?

Do dogs get more protective because they are males? Are female dogs gentler in gesture? Do male dogs believe they “provide” for their offspring?

Dogs May Know Their Gender Based on Heritage

One study from 2018 found that there are slight differences between the behavior of male and female dogs. Such minor variations can come from their “biological and evolutionary heritage,” which dogs learn from their ancestors.

It’s part of your dog’s pack instinct, which you can reinforce by becoming your dog’s pack leader

For example, a female dog might tend to protect their puppies more than a male dog. However, this does not necessarily mean that dogs are aware of their gender.

The study states that male dogs are more likely to be aggressive and bold than female dogs. Female dogs are more about social skills and cooperating with humans. 

Researchers also observed that male dogs would rather play with their humans than female dogs.

But all of this is instinctual behavior, not necessarily because they know and understand gender.

Humans are Biased

It’s hard to make a conclusion out of these limited studies. Our personal and cultural biases about what makes a “female” or “male” may also get in the way of these results. 

Perhaps you’ve tried buying your male dog a blue toy just because you think blue is for boys. 

It’s also common for dog owners to name their dogs based on gender the way they do with their own children.

There’s nothing wrong with these activities.

A study in 2011 found that dog owners use gender norms to decide what is best for their pets. Some even use their dogs as “props” for their gender identities.

In pop culture, we often see hyper-feminine characters dressed in pink with their tiny Yorkshire Terriers and similar breeds dressed in pink. Think of Sharpay Evans from High School Musical and Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.

You might also see the macho character with their Doberman or other “masculine dogs.” One good example is Charles F. Muntz from Up and the leader among his dogs, Alpha. 

That’s because many humans choose dogs who are extensions of themselves. 

So it’s hard to conduct studies about whether dogs know their gender or not because of our personal opinions about gender. 

Technically, Dogs Do Not Have Genders

Whether dogs follow certain behaviors that align with our beliefs of femininity and masculinity, it’s still worth noting that dogs do not have genders.

Our furry friends do not have “cultures” or “personal identities” like us. They do not have “views” or “beliefs” attached to their biological differences.

Therefore, dogs only have a biological sex, which is either male or female. 

There are also hermaphrodite and pseudohermaphrodite in dogs, where they have female chromosomes but male sex organs. 

Do Dogs Prefer a Certain Gender?

Some canine experts believe that dogs show preferences toward a specific gender of their owner. However, more scientists refute this information.

Dogs do not base their attitude on the gender of the individual. Your furry friend will sniff, greet, and play with your daughter the way they do with your son.

If they treat a woman or man differently, it’s unlikely due to their gender.

For example, your dog might prefer their male owner over the female owner because he spent more time with them during their puppyhood. 

It’s also possible for dogs to be aggressive toward your male partner over you not because of gender but because of a possible negative experience with the person. 

Further proof that dogs do not prefer a specific gender is that they hump everyone. Dogs do hump on female dogs, male dogs, women, and men.

Do Dogs Know the Gender of their Owner?

Dogs know when their owner is male or female based on their senses.

Again, the proper term we should be using is “sex,” which refers to the biological category of a human being. 

For example, dogs may understand that their owner is male or female based on their chemical smell.

Some experts believe dogs know their owners’ gender based on the pitch of their voice, body structure, and other physical factors.

However, there are no studies to back this up. 

Their knowledge of your biological characteristics will not affect their attitude toward you.

There are no studies confirming dogs treating their male and female owners differently. What we know is that dogs can smell our hormones.

In fact, dogs can even sense when a woman is pregnant or on their period. That’s because their smell receptors are 60 times stronger than ours. 

How Do Dogs Tell the Gender of Other Dogs?

The most common way dogs tell the gender of other dogs is by sniffing their rear ends. 

Dogs have a strong sense of smell that allows them to smell inside others’ bodies.

Inside dogs’ rectums are anal glands that release a specific substance with a unique smell, indicating information about their sex.

These glands empty when the dogs poop. And we often don’t smell them because of the powerful odor of the stool.

But dogs can distinguish the odor of the anal glands. That’s why you’ll find them sniffing other dogs’ rear ends as a form of greeting.

Do Dogs Know Their Siblings?

Dogs know their siblings and parents even if they’ve been apart from them for some time. 

But if your dog spends a small amount of time with them, there’s only a small chance they will recognize them later.

There are also limited studies to prove this assertion.

Find out more about whether dogs know and remember their siblings after time apart.

How Can I Tell If My Dogs are Bonded to Each Other?

Dogs are bonded to each other when they share food, comfort, or play together. These small activities help them improve their social skills. 

A “bonded pair” is the correct term that dog adoption centers and animal rescue programs use for dogs or cats with a strong relationship.

The different kinds of bonds include familial, trauma or grief-induced, and proximity bonds. This bonding process usually takes a month once your furry friends have enough social skills from training.

Learn the other signs of a bonded pair of dogs so you can see if your pets are compatible with each other.

Dogs Know Their Sex, Not Their Gender

Dogs do not know their gender because they don’t have one. “Gender” comprises our beliefs on roles and behaviors attached to masculinity and femininity.

But dogs are smart enough to know whether they are male or female through their physical attributes. Our furry friends also distinguish other dogs’ sexes by sniffing their rear ends. 

You might see your dog showing “masculine” or “feminine” behavior, but they don’t understand these concepts the way we do.

You might also be wondering if dogs know their own name. Find out whether dogs really know their name or not.